focus is a social worker led organisations that is independent of the local authority and provide social work services for a specified group of people for whom they discharge the statutory duties and responsibilities of the local authority. SWP pilots were first launched in children’s services having surfaced in the Green Paper “Care Matters: Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care”. The idea was a relatively simple one: there would be benefits for both looked-after children and for social workers if the latter were organised along the lines of professional partnerships, mirroring arrangements for legal and medical partnerships.
This idea evolved from the Government’s desire to improve the experiences and outcomes for people in vulnerable circumstances and empower social workers to do their jobs effectively, while reducing bureaucracy. It seeks to bring the people who access services and staff closer together. It complements the personalisation policy by assisting the shift of power and responsibility to citizens and away from social workers. The SWP pilots represented an opportunity to test the potential benefits of the SWP model and adopt an innovative approach to delivering services for adults and their carers.
North East Lincolnshire had been embracing major changes in how social work could be delivered. Giving people control of their own resources and determining how their needs are met, the rise of personalisation and national policy initiatives all pointed to transformation in the role and organisation of social work with adults. North East Lincolnshire is at the forefront of delivering change that reflects people’s aspirations to be active citizens, to be in control of the services and support they need and to be deprived of their liberty only when there is no other option. The overall objective in North East Lincolnshire is to shift responsibility and power away from managers and social workers and towards citizens.
An innovative programme of organisational development has been undertaken which reflects a commitment to delivering high quality and efficient services that put service users and the community first. The programme promotes a model of practice that enables adult social work to become one of the strong foundations of personalisation in NEL, supported by a shift away from hierarchical line-management structures, strengthened communication channels and a reduction in bureaucracy.
There has been Investment and commitment to the recruitment and retention of staff, including fully supported social work degree sponsorship. Overall the programme has enabled social workers to have a renewed sense of connection with what they set out to do.
The programme has focused particularly on changing culture and behaviours, implementing a leadership programme, devolving responsibilities to social workers, and developing communities and social capital in ways which shift responsibility and power away from social workers and towards citizens.
CULTURE AND BEHAVIOURS
Organisational development work has made engagement in decision-making more interactive, so that all staff actively contributed to the development of focus. Areas of activity have included:
Involving all staff in defining a shared vision and values
Building a sense of identity with focus through the social model of disability and branding
Identifying new roles and responsibilities within focus
Understanding the diversity of skills and talents that all staff can contribute through 360 degree appraisal and coaching
Developing an information and providing updates on development activities
The programme has responded to a rapidly changing environment where constant learning, adaptation and innovation have been critical to the success of focus. It has been characterised by:
Defining clear goals and building a determination to reach them
Nurturing and valuing the contribution of all staff
Openness to the external environment
Harnessing the full knowledge and experience of all staff
Specific efforts have been made to develop the behaviour of social workers in leadership roles and to promote a change in culture so that honest dialogue is accepted as challenging and empowerment is a common concept where people are given real responsibility and use it to challenge seniors. The development of individuals has been facilitated by role modelling different behaviours that recognise the talents of individuals, support active citizenship and promote the participation of communities in local activity and decision-making, for example being positive, solution focused, non-directive, constructively challenging and reflective to enhance necessary learning.
Key to the development of focus has been the creation of a modern and robust Communications Strategy to engage effectively with both internal and external stakeholders, specifically staff and services users. A particular emphasis has been on the type of information to be cascaded, as well as via what medium and when. In parallel with a new SWP there have been regular focus groups and members forum meetings, which all influence and shape the development of focus through active input.
The organisational development programme sees social work and its values as important in shaping the responses of the entire workforce in focus. It is intended that social workers will have a role in influencing the behaviours of all staff and services in focus from the first contact with users, ensuring they are listening, empowering individuals, being alert to conflict, safeguarding needs and the capacity of individuals, being sensitive to diversity and putting people in control. focus also has front line staff being more involved in day to day decision-making.
Individual team members have the opportunity to use their skills and experience outside their specified remit (or job title) within focus. Since team roles within the SMT’s will be much more fluid than in hierarchical teams, team members will have increased discretion over their work. The aspiration is that this will lead to greater motivation and improved performance. Team members will also have greater freedom to complement each other’s skills.
focus is committed to placing the social model of disability at the centre of practice. This is expected to embed a respect for the expertise and experience of service users, in parallel with the building of capacity at both an individual and community level to challenge disabling barriers. focus will be based on a ‘whole-systems approach’ to capacity building, moving away from a deficit model to a more participative model and involving a collaborative approach over the long term. To be effective this requires a transfer both of resources and of responsibility.
The principle of “building of community capacity”, which extends to marginalised individuals and groups, is focused on developing the abilities of local people to organise themselves so that they have more influence. The aim is for local people to better define and achieve their objectives and take an active and equal role in partnership with focus and other agencies. This will lead to an improved ability on the part of individuals, voluntary and community groups and communities to access resources and develop new activities, and should also lead to changes in focus and other statutory organisations.